Not really sure what ‘carn’ means, as far as I know it’s not a word. However the phrase ‘Carn the Whites!’ has made a miraculous apprearance in my vocabulary. In order to participate in the full spectrum of social experience that living in the United Kingdom can offer, we decided, upon the urging of some friends, to attend a Football (soccer) match (my touch-typing fingers just accidentally typed the word food then, food being so much more familiar and more important to me than football…). Not having a team that we have one-eyed-ly supported for generations, we took a lucky dip and found ourselves in the home team stands at a Fulham v Aston Villa game, in Fulham, south-west London. The team colours are fortunately black and white, so all four of us architects who turned up wearing black were accepted into the supporter stands unreservedly. So Fulham is now our Team. The odds were high against them, 10 to 1, and if they lost this game they would be ‘relegated’ whatever that means, so we didn’t hold much hope. Our hope was further dimmed by the lack-lustre performance of the team mascot, a person in a badger suit who tried to perform a moon-walk and then got down for some break dancing – hindered somewhat by the high grip level provided by the furry suit and the grassy field. The biggest cheer he got was when he was pulled off the field to allow the commencement of the game. The first half was not the most exciting time of my life but enjoyable enough, especially with the commentary provided by a group of lads sitting in the row behind us who seemed to have taken a strong dislike to one of their own team’s players, encouraging the other players not to kick the ball to him, and politely suggesting that he should be taken off the field. According to them it was a ‘rubbish’ game, mainly due to this particular unfortunate player, who to us seemed quite inoffensive. Sure he didn’t score any goals, but neither did any of the others. During the mid time break, while the players ate orange segments together in the club room (although I may have just made that up), we watched the local under-tens taking turns to kick into the goal posts, success celebrated by one small character with a jubilant skid on his knees, small fists in the air, seeking applause from the crowd. The well-prepared season-ticket ladies next to us unpacked thermoses of hot water and teabags. The human-badger returned for more glory, and was again forcibly removed from the field.
After half time things got more exciting. Middle aged men surrounding us wore their hearts and anxiety on their sleeves, gloved hands raised convulsively towards beanied heads at every missed opportunity. Half-consumed hotdogs were cast aside and frozen feet forgotten, as all faces focussed on the field. Chants wafted around the stadium, thousands of bass voices raising complex lyrics (fulham, fulham, fulham, fulham…) adhering loosely to semi-identifiable snatches of tune. I considered making something up and joining in, but imagined everyone else ending their song at a predetermined point (the end, maybe) with me not recognising it and carrying loudly on… and so kept my mouth shut. I did however join in the groans of general dismay at the first goal, scored unfortunately by the opposition, and leapt up with joy at the equaliser – or maybe we were just forced up by the general wave of human bodies – either way the score was 1 all, and you could cut the atmosphere with a knife. The game continued, someone got a yellow card, someone else was substituted – as you can see I followed it all, almost as if I knew what was going on. With minutes to spare, the tension was mounting, scarves flailing wildly in the crowd, a note of desperation creeping into the chants – and suddenly the ball sailed serenely into the net and all around us descended into mayhem – there was jumping and roaring, clapping and back-slapping, grey anoraks hugging navy anoraks. Out of the chaos arose a sudden recognisable clarity to the chanting – ‘super-chris, super-chris, super-chris’ (I think the goal scorer’s name was Chris).
Afterwards we joined the mass of happy supporters flooding back to the tube station – despite or perhaps because of the large police presence, all were orderly and well-behaved, so Justin didn’t get to see the football hooligans he was hoping to see. My admittedly rather low expectations of a good day out at the football were well and truly surpassesed – I wouldn’t necessarily fork out the 1400 pounds for the season ticket but had a good day nonetheless. Carn the whites!